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Cosplay > Tips

14 December; Author: TRiPPY

Tips and Advice 101!

Things you should already know before cosplaying or making a costume. For more detailed written work see the tutorials section.

-Costume Planning Tips-

1. Always know your limits. Although it's fun to take on an ambitious project with a thousand shiny glittery things you have to know you have the motivation and skill to complete it, otherwise it's a big waste of materials and probably money. If you look at a costume and have no idea how to physically create a large part of it then just DON'T until you have some idea of how you'll tackle it. Get a sketchpad and scribble down every little pattern idea you have. If you're new to cosplay there is no WAY you are going to create a full costume in under a month, let alone 5 months.

2. Paper before fabric. Never start making a costume with no basic pattern in your head or on paper. You'll probably find that your pattern/design will change as time goes on, so make sure you get a final plan on draft paper before chopping up any fabric whatsoever.

3. Plan your budget. No point starting a costume with no way to buy the proper materials or obtain them. I recommend buying fabrics from Ebay because if you shop for fabrics in your area you tend to settle for second best on what the shop stocks rather on what it is you EXACTLY set out for. Get a bit of paper and research costs before even starting making whatever you're making. You don't want a half complete costume- especially if it's for a convention deadline.

4. It's normally not the done thing to cosplay as somebody's fan character without their permission first. So use the magical words. And remember to give them photos afterwards.

5. It's possible to create a NiGHTS cosplay without spending any money whatsoever if you're resourceful and not fussy on materials. When starting a project you have to ask yourself if you want to make this a maximum full effort dealie or just the one off costume for fun. If you want it to be PERFECT then be prepared to spend at least $100 on materials alone, unless of course you're very lucky and own a fabric shop. If you're wanting to make a costume to wow people then DO NOT SKIMP ON EFFORT- TIME- OR CASH. You'll thank me later.

6. Time planning. I started my U.V costume nearly 2 years before the con, it may seem like a lot of time but trust me it flies by and to this DAY it's still incomplete. I didn't flat out work on it constantly so give yourself a LOT of lazytime. If you have like a month to make a costume make it a super simple costume otherwise you'll run out of time, have 0.3th of a costume and feel annoyed at the con.

7. Look at other examples. RESEARCH ONLINE. That's what the internet is for, learning (and porn). So make good use of it and read up on other famous cosplayers, other series you're interested in that have cosplayers (I recommend Amano Final Fantasy for detail), stare at a lot of photos and read up on cosplayer message boards for tips and problem solving. Also don't be afraid to ask the Pro's for any advice because i found that people will ALWAYS offer a hand or 3. Don't ever get offended if somebody wont reply though, a lot of these guys online have to travel to competitions abroad, have workshops and actually make a living from cosplay, so they're very busy people- remain courteous.

8. Decide if you're going to make the costume yourself or commission it from somebody else. Remember though conventions have rules about entering somebody else's work. Be honest about your creations and give proper credit where due. If you're commissioning it be sure to give the craftsperson a LOT of references and give them leeway for a little artistic licence. The best kind of deal is pay half up front for materials and then pay the other half on completion, that way neither person gets completely ripped off if something goes bad halfway through. Remember that costumes are a lot of hard and blister inducing work!

9. Make sure you buy more material than you need. You may think that the 2.1 yards of spangly spandex is more than enough, but you will -always- run out. Nothing is worse than having a certain shade of fabric and no matching fabric to patch it together with. Remember you have a hem allowance to cater for too. That's about an inch all round for alterations sake.

10. Don't cosplay as a character you know will look dumb being cosplayed unless you really know you can pull it off half decent. Since the majority of non cosplayers like nothing more to laugh at a bad cosplayer be prepared for bitching unless you are willing to put in a real effort. The two most important things in cosplay are GOOD CRAFTSMANSHIP and EFFORT TO GET IN CHARACTER (for photo posing especialy!). So think first before making a costume- 'Could i make a convincing version of *insert name here*?' No point in making a costume so outrageous you're afraid to step out of your own bedroom, let alone onto a stage.


1. Have a big(ish) flat workspace for cutting fabrics, spray painting, hammering stuff and probably throwing glue everywhere. I don't recommend a bedroom carpet. Fluff + paint- BAD IDEA. And your parents will murder you. Be sensible and use a big sheet of wood, bin bags or paper or something. Ideally use something like a garage floor for weapon/accessory construction. It's very messy. I had to repaint my entire bedroom floor. You -NEED- a large flat area for pattern cutting. Lumpy wrinkly fabric guidelines are a no no.

2. Take good care of your tools. That means oiling and cleaning machines, keeping scissors sharp, not using blunt needles, keeping your work area neat and tidy (stepping on pins isn't fun let me tell you), keeping all your fabrics folded in storage boxes when not in use and putting loose threads into the trash and NOT back into your sewing kit. Keep Glues, resins and other chemically dangerous stuff in safe places out of the reach of young children and pets. Regularly check any electrical equipment you use is in good working order and not a fire hazard. Don't have lots of wires running across your floor, or you'll trip up and a very heavy sewing machine will land on your toes.

3. Keep any patterns and fabric swatches/mockups in labeled big envelopes. I keep mines for reuse in my filing cabinet so i can find them easier later on. It's also a great idea to collect clothing patterns in general so you can adapt them for future projects. That hideous 80's jumpsuit pattern at the back of your mums wardrobe may be turned into the best Reala costume ever. It's also a good idea to collect pictures of clothing that inspires you, do your homework and keep it safe.

4. When using a sewing machine NEVER forcefeed thick hemlines through it. Do it by hand if you must (using the dial) If you use the foot peddle the material will jam and the needle will snap and go flying into your eyeballs. Honest. I broke 2 needles. Luckily i was wearing my specs. Remember you're sewing, not driving a racing car. Keep your fingers well away from the needle.

5. For perfect corners with a machine, take the line up to about a centimeter away from the edge of the fabric, stop sewing, lift the foot- with the needle still DOWN, rotate the material, put the foot back down and continue in your new direction. That way you don't get loose stitching.

6. One of the unspoken rules of cosplay is to never use shiny thin fabrics like satin, silk, spandex and lycra on large area's of your costume unless your costume requires it drastically. It's not flattering on ANYONE- unless you use it correctly and put the proper kind of hemlines in it. The thing to remember about this kind of material is that yes, it's gorgeous, but, the instant you're under strong lighting or camera flash it shows up every little line in scary detail. So to avoid VPL and that charming friend cellulite wear something underneath your costume that gives you the proper support you need, keeps you warm, doesn't make you sweat and ruin your costume and that isn't lumpy. Look at the clothing the character is wearing and think what texture the fabric is. Annoyingly i'd say most of the NiD fabrics ARE satins, PVC's and lyrcas ahahah, we lose. Circus/ice skating/dance wear shops are your best bet for NiGHTSy equipment that looks realistic.

7. Use strong thread. If you're sewing and it keeps fraying or snapping then do NOT use it on large items such as the butt of your trousers, otherwise the minute you sit down they'll split and you'll have a red face. Remember to always reverse stitch the end of sewing lines to secure it from undoing and to not sew TOO close to the edge of the fabric. Thin materials will rip and all your stitching will be worth didly. 2cm's is enough.

8. Using superglue is dangerous so only use it when you REALLY have to. Know that it makes some fabrics ignite spontaneously and gives of dangerous chemical smoke stuff. I found that one out the hard way. Use fabric glue. Otherwise your costume will go up in flames.

9. You -need- rulers and tape measures. Guesswork is fine but you want a symmetrical costume. Lopsided looks bad. Draw around cake tins for circles, trace existing items of clothing, improvise!

10. I draw my fabric plans with chalk (dark material) white colored pencils and normal pencil for light fabrics. Always draw on the REVERSE side of the material (that means the side that nobody will see). Ugly is being able to see markup lines. Don't use anything like ink that the fabric may absorb (and ruin). A perfectly smooth flat surface is essential for drawing on your material.

11. Make a test version first from crappy old material. You'll find that your 'foolproof' costume you just made will be COMPLETELY ANNOYING the second you try to put it on (if you can get it on at all). So save yourself the grief and make a dummy version that you can draw all over, pick out the stitching from and then trace onto the real material. I use stuff like old curtains and bed sheets. Then when I'm done with them, off into the filing cabinet they go. Never throw out something you can re-use later. Recycle!

12. Line your fabrics. By that i mean if the material is thin then make sure it has identically shaped backing material sewn on the other side. Not only does it make the material less fly-away and crap, it also makes it way more flattering to wear. Plus longer life and no horror story if the material tears. It's a good idea to put backing fabric (like heavy cotton or something) on materials like PVC which tend to curl up because of the elastic in the weave. You want your fabric (unless it's a big girly frilly dress) to be realistic and hang properly. Which means heavy. I think material weight is what makes a good costume stand out from a bad costume. Light costumes tend to ride up, crease badly, twist, and not sit right. Closefit costumes still benefit from lining of some sort.

13. Before sewing panels of material together remember one simple fact- IRONS ARE YOUR FRIEND. There's nothing more annoying than a con full of crushed people. So iron your costume while constructing it to avoid creases you cant fix later when it's all sewn together. Be careful when using an iron however and be aware that sequins, some elastics, PVC and fabric paints all melt and stick to the iron, then usually go on fire pretty quickly. Safety first kiddies! You'll find that material becomes a million times easier on the sewing machine after it's been ironed for some reason. So iron iron iron.

14. Can't find that perfect wig in that perfect color? Then do the obvious thing and dye it. But not just any old way. Dying wigs is a tricky business and hair dyes won't work on synthetic hair. So visit the tutorials section for a step by step guide on how to make and use wig dye, plus styling your wig. It's cheaper than you think.

15. Always use a good sharp long pair of fabric scissors. Not only is it easier to cut straight lines perfectly but they glide through the fabric instead of having to hack away and get frayed edges. There's nothing worse than a pair of dull paper scissors on material. You can even buy special crafts scissors with jaggy edges that make patterns as you cut, which look great for sleeves and decorative trim.

16. You can never own enough clear nail varnish, ribbon and pins. Nail varnish stops threads unraveling and can be used as a varnish, ribbon hides bad edging and gives lines more texture, pins seem to always vanish one by one as the day goes on. Have lots. Toothpicks are also pretty useful for fixing paint detail gone crazy.

17. Before making any type of NiGHTS hat its always a good idea to have something head shaped to put it on, otherwise it's twice as hard to create. I used an old heavy paint tin full of sand, on top of a high chair- so the horns don't get all mangled every time i put it down. Hats are big and tend to get in the way so know where you are going to work on the thing before making one.

18. Before putting a costume on to try/test it out for size -check it TWICE for stray pins you may have left in the fabric at dangerous angles. I put my hat on with a pin sticking straight out that i'd actually sewn into the lining by complete accident, it ended up giving me a very nasty cut on my scalp, so seriously, always check. I don't want anyone losing any eyes or whatever.

19. When handing wire or old coat hangers use proper WIRE CUTTERS. If you use a hacksaw you will completely dull the blade and get a very ragged edge. Also remember to put masking or duct/stage tape on each end of the cut wire to stop injury. I got scratched the most by sculpture wire. Always be aware of where the other end is. It tends to spring about.

20. If you're using high VOC paint, spray paint or resin then do it OUTDOORS or with all your windows open. Because i have no garden (or face mask) i had to spend a few nights sleeping in my hall because my bedroom was so full of spray paint fumes and gloss fumes. If you have any pet birds or small animals keep them OUT of your area until the fumes are gone.

21. When making clay molds for latex or other materials always coat your mold with regular PVA glue (to seal it). This stops the liquid absorbing into the clay and gives it a smooth non lumpy finish when taken out.


-Conventions and common sense-

1. Since fans WILL be fans and often go a bit over the top glomping their favourite character cosplay for photos at Cons, take some BACKUP with you. A big brother, a big sister, your big err.. mother. You get the idea. Never travel to a Con or Expo alone unless you feel 100% safe and able to tackle any pervy fans (or people on the way there) who forget you're just a cosplayer. (A lot of people who don't do cosplay see it as being an adult thing so BEWARE) If you're a girl wearing a skimpy revealing outfit then take a long coat or make a cloak to cover up with while you're not intentionally wanting attention. Plus it could get cold. Having a homegrown bodyguard will also usually boost your confidence with your costume, so make sure you feel safe. If you find yourself cornered or having any unwanted persistent attention then tell the person politely to back off, if they keep at it then find the nearest Con attendant and tell them. Usually hanging around other large groups of people will ward off weirdo's. Sometimes male cosplayers will go out of their way to assist overcrowded girls and vise versa. If you see someone being harassed lend a hand and get them out of any shifty situations, pretending you know each other for example. Keep your wits about you and act sensibly.

2. It's a great idea to carry a small bag or concealed pocket on your costume that contains the following items:
A card with your details on including phone number,
A few bandaids,
A small emergency sewing kit (thread, needle, glue, spare button),
A hairbrush or comb with a little mirror,
Spare change.
Lack of pockets on a costume will only become apparent in annoyance when you get to the con and realize you have nowhere to put your car/hotel keys, money for snacks and no thread to patch a big tear on your costume. Be prepared! You want to look your best, especially if you're entering any competitions. Never stitch pockets into tight fitting areas though as it looks hideous. HIP LUMPS. Go for baggy areas. I have concealed pockets in my waistcoat, yet from the exterior you can't see a thing. It's useful.

3. No real weapons! I can't stress that enough, especially in today's society. Even something that LOOKS like a real gun for example should be clearly marked with the orange cap (this is called 'peacebonding') and stored away SAFELY until in the convention building.  You need to also point out to airport staff when scanning your luggage as it being a fake costume prop, otherwise you could find yourself in a bit of a dangerous drama. Check the convention rules about weapons before taking one. That goes from everything from guns to swords to fairy wands. Everywhere has safety regulations to defend themselves from potential lawsuits. Your neighborhood police wont want you running amok with a buster sword scaring old ladies i can assure you. What you may recognize as just being an anime prop weapon could be seen by somebody else in the community as a real threat. Ever hear the story about the kid with the water gun in his front garden? You don't want to.

4. This really goes with the above rule but sometimes costumes have size restrictions too. The reason for this is if there was to be a fire or other threat and the building had to be evacuated quickly, your 30ft across giant HAT OF DOOM would block corridors and fire exits. Costumes with long trains, tailing bits, or tails even really need a person to keep an eye on them incase people trip up, they get caught in elevator doors or catch fire from smoking. So read the rules to avoid major disappointment and a wasted trip.

5. Treat everyone with respect. It may be pretty tempting to laugh at somebody else's costume but if people were doing the laughing at you, you wouldn't be happy. Good sportsmanship is contagious. Never insult somebody for fun, it's not the done thing. At the end of the day you're dressed up as a fictional character in a building full of crazy folk just like you. So no thinking you're above everyone else there. Embrace the inner geek! Be nice to people.

6. Take a picture of the character you are dressed as to show judges. Some people don't even know who Sega are let alone NiGHTS into Dreams characters.

7. Don't get jealous, vindictive or abusive towards people who win prizes if you don't. Just try better next year and put it down to experience. The people who win usually put a lot of time and effort into their work. So just smile and give them your support. Keep striving to be the best!

8. If you're staying in a hotel make sure you take your valuables with you or keep them locked up safely. Having your plane ticket to get home stolen would NOT be good.

9. Have a good transport plan firstly, make sure you can actually GET your costume there and back in one piece in good condition without annoying public transport passengers, causing a scene, or getting stranded with giant bags in a strange city. Plan many months in advance, then you can enjoy the Con more.

10. Always wear your Con ID tag at all times. If you don't want it ruining your costume then tie it under an inconspicuous area of your costume that wont get in the way.

Cosplayers, feel free to share tips below in the comments section.




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